Privacy Goes For A Toss..

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He looked visibly angry and truly so. Ramavtaar Sir (Hindi teacher) had asked the question, Deewaron ke bhi kaan hote hain matlab (What is the meaning of the famous Hindi saying – walls can hear too) ? In all earnestness Girdhari had replied, sir, iska matlab hai, Deewaron ki aankhein nahi hoti (well sir, it means, walls don’t have eyes ) ! Alok and Rajesh 3 were smiling while their other classmates were stunned. Ramavtaar Sir looked deep into Girdhari’s eyes and said, Re dharti ke bojh, Hindi kaksha mein yahi seekhta hai, aayen (Oaf, is this what you learnt in my Hindi class) ? It got uncontrollable for Alok and Rajesh 3 now. They started laughing aloud. Girdhari spilled the beans. Girdhari said, sir, three of us had decided this earlier. Whenever Ramavtaar Sir was going to ask the meaning of this Hindi saying, Rajesh 3 would reply that walls don’t have a nose. And Alok’s reply would be, walls don’t have brains !       

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Dear reader, think about it, we are living in the age of no privacy, literally ! In ancient India, guarding privacy was encouraged by higher echelons. In popular parlance it has been understood since ages that women shouldn’t reveal their age and men, their income. Ancient texts have mentioned that matters related to family, worship and sex should be kept secret, at all costs. Earlier spies were assigned particular tasks by their kings but eavesdropping was not one of them.

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It was the age of India’s first war of independence in 1857. And it was started by a great hero, Mangal Pande in Barrackpore, now a suburb of Kolkata. Subduing Mangal Pandey was second, on the list of, to do list of the then British rulers. It was the first which flabbergasted and foxed them, completely. It was called the Chapati (Indian Flatbreads) movement. The humble Roti (Indian Flatbreads) used to travel to hundreds and thousands of kilometres to every corner of India. These rotis were carried by soldiers, postmen and cops alike. It is said that these rotis were distributed by the patriots across the length and breadth of India to prepare everybody for the 1857 movement. Several times British officers got these rotis opened and dissected in great detail under their own supervision. They did not find anything inside, incriminating !  

This paranoia of the then British officials encouraged them to read telegrams, postcards and other postage in the Akhand Bharat (Indian sub-continent). With a stroke of success, hither and thither, they finally attempted tapping the telephones of native Indians. And our fates were sealed, for worse. 

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From telephones as a medium of communication to the handy pager, the age of innocence was in continuation. In the early 90’s, Frank Canova, an engineer with IBM and his team worked successfully on world’s first smartphone – Simon ! And our world ; each one of us, took a 360 degrees turn. 

With mobiles came, text messages (SMS), Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Tik-Tok, Koo etc. Smartphone has led to itching fingers syndrome, quietly. Excessive dependence and usage of mobile phones causes several diseases like nomophobia, cell phone elbow and text neck amongst others. Nomophobia means being afraid of being without a mobile phone or in simple words, no mobile phobia. When you move your neck ahead, in order to bring them before your shoulders, to text a message it is called text neck menace. In, cell phone elbow disease, prolonged stretching of one’s elbow, to keep the mobile phone close to one’s ear, causes pain and numbness in hand or forearm !

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Dear reader, shouldn’t we call this era – ‘instant era’ ? Somebody writes something or puts up pics on Facebook, trigerring a fusillade of likes, emojis and comments. A news item (or fake news) arrives on our screens and everybody is busy reacting with tweets, koos and writing on Facebook. Hello, whatever happened to terms like restraint, self-control and rethink, fossilized for history ? A niggle turned into a festering wound in the same way a pet turns into a man-eater ! 

What about our right to privacy ? This is one of the most oft repeated questions being asked everywhere. On this globe, Germany has the most stringent data privacy laws, right now. As for our Adhaar (Foundation) of privacy in India, a nine judge bench announced in 2017, that right to privacy is a congenital part of right to life and individual freedom, under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

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On his walkman, Girdhari was listening to a popular Hindi ballad, Dheere dheere bol koyi sunn naa le, Sunn naa le koyi sunn naa le (Speak in whispers else others will know). He was trying to find the real meaning of these words when he remembered, suddenly. On the western wall of the central hall of his alma mater, C M S High School, it was written prominently – quick to hear and slow to speak ! Smile came on Girdhari lips when he remembered how Ramavtaar Sir had explained the meaning of that famous Hindi saying which Girdhari had messed up royally that day. Ramavtaar Sir had asked everybody to be careful before speaking or writing because words once spoken or written don’t remain secret, anymore. Since that day Girdhari has always believed that, privacy goes for a toss whenever one opens one’s mouth, to speak !  

THE TWITCHER

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The thirst was getting unbearable. There it was, a pitcher. People keep water in pitchers, thus spake the thirsty. The crow looked inside the pitcher. Yes, at the bottom there was some water. But his strength was giving way. The crow looked around and eureka, there were some pebbles around. Problem solved. All of us have read this clever story from Aesop’s Fables. What else these birds are up to ? Are they friendly or scared of humans ? These and more questions were answered by one of Goa’s famous green activists who is a a bird watcher and guide cum boatman – Uday Tukaram Mandrekar !     

Photo by Uday Mandrekar

It happened that Day : Uday, a boatman in Goa’s Chorao island helps tourists in sighting birds. He begins his extra-ordinary tale. He says, I studied in a Marathi medium school. That day in 1990, I was waiting for ferry to reach school for my tenth exams final paper. A foreigner couple from England, loaded with telescope and cameras was waiting there for somebody, who could guide them to a place to watch the birds. I showed them a crow sitting on an electric pole. The couple laughed aloud at my naivety, opened a book and showed me the pictures of the birds that they wished to see. I took a fisherman’s canoe, rowed and took them to the other end of the river. They found so many birds there that they were amazed. Later on they sent many tourists to me from abroad. And that is how I got on a boat to sight the birds !  

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Aquatic Hero : Tiny little fiddler crabs or calling crabs live in holes in the mud. To breathe they come out of their holes. With plastic garbage filling these holes, fiddler crabs meet slow death. Do you see that ? I have kept a long metal rod in my boat. At the time of high tide, I collect plastic bottles floating in water through this rod and a wide net. I collect all this garbage in a bag and dump it in the garbage bin when I reach sea shore, without fail. 

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Birds, of Feathered kind : I collect leftover chicken organs like legs, beaks etc. from a chicken-mutton shop and place them in my boat. A bird arrives and takes its feed followed by other birds. I keep prawns in a corner of my boat. A Kingfisher arrives inside my boat and eats the prawns. My job depends on these birds. I take people to show them birds. I should take proper care of these birds, no  ?  

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Mangrove Saviour : Mangroves are our friends. There are 12 or 13 types of mangroves. They are mostly present in salt water. One particular type of mangrove, Avicennia Marina starts bearing fruits during rainy season but in sweet water ! Plastic and polythene bags are thrown by people in the sea. I try to convince people not to throw plastics and garbage in water. These plastic and polythene bags entangle and cover the roots of mangroves, under water. This hampers oxygen intake of mangroves ! Roots dry up, killing the mangroves.

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Come to Chorao : Chorao is the Portuguese name of this quaint island. This island along the Mandovi river in Goa is the largest amongst Goa’s 18 islands. Its 5 kms (kilometres) away from Panaji. Chorao is famous for its Portuguese villas, churches, rice, mango, jackfruit, cashew and Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary etc.  

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Spot the Birds in Animal Kingdom : Storks, Asian Openbills do nesting here. Cattle Egret don’t come near the sea. They live on farms, perched atop buffalos and cows. White Tern, River Tern, Sea Tern, Sailing Duck, The Brahminy Kite, The Western Osprey, Whimbrel, Kingfisher, The Ibis are found amidst the Wild Otters, Saltwater Crocodiles (Muggar) and Crabs.  

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The Boatman : I had a canoe made from mango wood earlier which I used to row with an oar. I have two gasoline run fiber motor boats, now. One accommodates 15-20 and the other 30-40 people. 

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Athithi Devo Bhavah (Tourists are Gods) : From October to March, I have tourists coming from England, America, Finland, France, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, South Africa, Spain, Germany, Japan and other nations. 

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Uday’s Favourites Sutra :  Favourite Colour : Red  

Favourite Season : Winter 

Favourite Dishes : Chana Masala, Daal, Pickle, Crabs, Prawns, Oysters

Favourite Hobby : Loking after my father’s shop

Photo by Uday Mandrekar

Favourite Books : Dr Salim Ali’s books on Birds / Russian Books

Favourite Destinations : Shirdi / Mumbai / Kolhapur / Shani Shingnapur

Favourite Idols : Mahatma Gandhi / Swami Vivekanand

Favourite Singers : Nitin Mukesh / Suresh Wadkar  

Favourite Actors : Sunny Deol / Amitabh Bachchan / Nana Patekar / Dharmendra 

Favourite Movie : Sholay

Photo by Uday Mandrekar

That was not Funny : At 2 pm on 26 December, 2004,  I was on a boat ride with tourists. High tide suddenly hit us. Lots of fish started flying above us. Suddenly my boat got stranded in mud as water had disappeared all of a sudden. My tourists started laughing and enjoying the whole process of high tide turning into low tide. I got everybody safely back on the shore. When I saw TV later that day, then I discovered Tsunami had hit us !

Award received : Kala Akadmi Puraskaar, 2017

Film made on Uday Mandrekar : The Birdman Of Chorao 

Photo by Uday Mandrekar

The Professional : As a guide I try to work with honesty. If they wish to see Kingfisher, I take them to Kingfisher. The duration of my boat ride is fixed at 90 minutes but most of the times it crosses 2 hours, busy as I am with, detailed explanations and taking them to more places than mutually decided ! 

Uday Tukaram Mandrekar

Contact Details of Uday Mandrekar :

Contact Numbers : +91 9822583127 /  +91 9021918613

E-Mail : udayingoa15@gmail.com

udaymandrekar76@gmail.com

Proud Moment : My father was unwell for some time. I was awarded a prize for working for the environment. I felt so happy that I spoke to my mother on phone. My father and everybody else felt so proud of me. 

Photo by Uday Mandrekar

Our people should welcome tourists with open arms. Locals should provide top notch service to tourists. Everything should be done in fair and transparent manner for their satisfaction. Dear reader, when you are in Goa next time, don’t forget to meet this birder. Uday as a guide is an unlikely person to think of dangers to aquatic and avian world. But working tirelessly for the betterment of the environment, round the clock, he deserves all the kudos to be declared as a Green Hero !

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If You Want To Be A Cartoonist, Live The Life Of A Cartoonist !

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Little Girdhari was playing with his spinning top. Usman Chacha (uncle) was seen riding his bicycle. Before he could stop near their house, Bhaiya (elder brother) pounced on his goodies. Didi (elder sister) arrived there. Bhaiya and Didi started tug of war with the fresh issue of Dharmyug (famous Hindi weekly) magazine. Bhaiya had already opened the cartoon page. The famous cartoon character, Dhabbuji was the bone of contention between the older siblings. Girdhari felt miserable and tears started rolling down little boy’s cheeks. Usman Chacha smiled and handed over a fresh issue of Bahadur comics to Girdhari. Bhaiya smiled and handed over Dharmyug to Didi. Bhaiya himself started rummaging through the stock of the hawker. Dear reader, this love story between the readers and Bahadur and Dhabbuji started then and it continues now, unabated. Maverick Yogi couldn’t thank his stars enough when he met the doyen of Indian cartooning and creator of Dhabbuji, Bahadur, Inspector Azad, Shuja, Doctor Chinchoo and several other memorable comic characters – Aabid Surti Saheb, now in his 80’s yet with full of joie de vivre !  

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Flash-Back : Aabid Surti speaks softly as he goes into flash-back mode. He says, I had an abnormal childhood. I never got time to play kiddies’ games. The whole effort was on contributing to family’s finance. My mother used to work in people’s houses. Paying school fees was a big tension. I never had the luxury to play marbles, spinning top or fly kites. 

First Cartoon : Aabid Surti remembers his tough childhood as if it happened in recent past. He continues, I joined a kiddie beggars’ gang. Around the time of second world war, ships used to arrive at Apollo Bunder in Bombay. A toy train used to run between Apollo Bunder and VT station (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus) to ferry the passengers. Our kiddie gang used to run along with that toy train. All of us used to shout at the train passengers, sir please give us one dollar, sandwich, apple etc. The soldiers used to throw at us whatever was in their hands. Sometimes a lollypop, a half eaten sandwich or a pack of biscuits used to land in our hands. That morning, a soldier threw a comic book at us from the toy train. Our whole kiddie gang pounced on that book in anticipation of a dollar or pound, hidden inside the book. Somebody got three pages, another one the cover while I got one page. It was a Mickey Mouse cartoon. In my house, I copied the whole page and voila, I had made my first cartoon !

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KhariKamai Day : As a small boy I was in Scouts. Once a year we had a ‘KhariKamai Day’ to instill respect for labour and manual work. A boy scout used to make a flower out of handicraft materials and that day he had to sell it in the market to a customer. Another boy scout used to sit as a boot polish boy. On that ‘KhariKamai Day’, I was dressed as a boy scout with cap and whistle and was carrying 2-3 cartoons made by me. I went inside the newspaper editor’s cabin and put up my cartoons on his table. He looked at my cartoons and smiled. My first cartoon was published in The Times of India newspaper ! 

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Dhabbuji Redux : Dhabbuji was carrying one Kg (kilo gram) chicken from a mutton-chicken shop. An eagle swooped down, snatched the chicken packet and sat on top of an open terrace. Dhabbuji started dancing on the chowk (market square). Onlookers found this weird. Somebody asked Dhabbuji why was he dancing. Dhabbuji replied that eagle was a damnfool. It took the chicken away alright but Murg Mussallam recipe was with him !   

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Pioneer of Transparent Painting : Aabid Surti wanted to break the traditional painting style. The idea was to put that transparent painting in the centre of a hall as a wall, dividing that hall into two. So, people from both the sides could see that painting. When hung on a window – outsiders and householders both could see it.

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Founder of First Comic Syndicate in India : Aabid Surti says, there was no comics syndicate in India those days like they had Walt Disney, Superman and other such comics syndicates abroad for marketing. I along with Pratap Mullick and Anant Pai created the first comics syndicate of India, Rangrekha Features Private Limited. I was the director of the company. 

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Inventor of Mirror Collage : In Rajasthan, Aabid Surti discovered that women used to stick two mirrors on the walls of their houses and they used to make images of peacocks, butterflies and birds on those mirrors. I did first mirror collage exhibition in 1969 and it was a total sell out ! After the third exhibition I stopped, otherwise I would have turned into a one man factory !

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Bahadur is Born : The Times of India group through Indrajaal Comics used to publish Phantom, Mandrake The Magician and other comics those days. To create an original Indian comic character, they were on the lookout for an artist who could write too. I requested for a month to create it. Dacoits (bandits) of Chambal valley were all the rage those days. Tarun Kumar Bhaduri’s book, Abhishapt Chambal (Cursed Chambal) became my guide-book. I travelled extensively in Bhind, Morena, Etawah, Gwalior districts for detailed research. And thus was born, the Bahadur !      

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The Compliment – Aabid Surti considers this as his biggest compliment. During his Satsang, when Osho Rajneesh (famous Indian philosopher) noticed that his Bhakts (followers) were getting distracted or feeling drowsy, he used to say, let’s see what Dhabbuji is saying this week. He used to take out the latest issue of Dharmyug from under his cushion and narrate Dhabbuji’s antics. Bhakts used to laugh. He had their concentration back, and how !

Cartoonists under Siege : A cartoon should make you laugh and guide you too. A political cartoonist should stay within the limits of decency. A political cartoon should be like a mirror where that politician can recognise himself, bass (period). 

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Difference between Dhabbuji and Common Man of R K Laxman : Aabid Surti laughs uproariously and says that there is no comparison, actually. Laxman’s famous character is  a common man whereas Dhabbuji is an uncommon man ! Both the characters are poles apart. Common man is a silent observer while Dhabbuji would get either his own leg broken or someone else’s in the bargain.  

A common man with an uncommon man : Photo by Pratyush Ranjan

Aabid’s  Favourites Sutra : Favourite Colours : Green, Blue – Both are colours of peace and harmony !

Favourite Artistes : Mohammed Rafi/ Pandit Ravi Shankar/ Ustad Allah Rakha Khan

Favourite Season : All seasons are same to me – Gifts of God !

Favourite Actor : Balraj Sahni

Favourite Hobbies : No time left for hobbies, now ! 

Favourite Renditions : Aaj jaane ki zid naa karo by Farida Khanum 

Hum dekhenge, Laazim hai ke hum bhi dekhenge by Iqbal Bano

Favourite Dishes : Dum Biryani and Tundey Kabaab of Lucknow

Favourite Movie : Anand

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Favourite Destinations : Kumaon Valley – Nainital, Pindari Glacier, Bhimtal, Tallital !

Favourite Film maker : Akira Kurosawa

Favourite Book : Charitraheen by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay

Favourite Cartoonists : Mario Miranda / Abu Abraham

Favourite Cartoon Strips : Mutt & Jeff 

Favourite Idol : Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose  

Aabid on ABID : I was doing one of my Mirror Collage exhibitions in Colaba’s Taj Art Gallery in the Taj Hotel. The iconic and celebrated film maker, Pramod Pati was planning to make a film on M F Hussain those days. Hussain Sahab was tremendously busy at that time. In that exhibition, Pramod Pati saw my mirror collage works and people’s tremendous response. He expressed his desire to make a documentary film on myself. I said, I am honoured ! He asked me to write the script for the film too ! I gave him an idea of a painter leaving his paintings for the world after his end. Pramod Pati immediately approved it. He decided to make this documentary with pixilation technique. ABID was released in 1972.    

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ROFL : Aabid Surti smiles when he narrates this anecdote. In a remote, secluded rural area of Morena (in Chambal valley, Madhya Pradesh), I missed my last bus in the evening. A police constable had missed that bus too. So both of us waited for another vehicle till 11 pm in the night. No luck for us. So, both of us decided to sleep, one after another. The cop slept for a couple of hours on the grass and I sat alert on the nearby boulder while holding his police gun, on vigil !   

Aabid Surti

Contact Details of Aabid Surti :

Website : http://www.aabidsurti.in

Contact Number : +91 9820184964

E-Mail : aabidssurti@gmail.com

Dear reader, when one is a kid, nature and supreme powers devise a way to hold that kid’s hands in order to prepare him/her for the journey called life. 3 senior citizens : a psychiatrist and photographer, Dr. R. J. Cheenwala, a painter called Yusuf Dhala and Mushtaq Jaleeli, a  screenwriter became three angels for kid Aabid. Aabid Surti himself strongly believes that whichever profession one wishes to work in, one should join the same profession or else one won’t get permanent happiness. And this view of Aabid Surti is stamped by non other than the famous cartoonist and author, Oliver Gaspirtz in his quote : If you want to be a cartoonist, live the life of a cartoonist ! 

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No Vacancy !

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He was awake but he wished not to. It was unusual for him to stay in bed after 5.30 am but he did not wish to get out of his bed. He was home after several months. Mom came with a plate full of his favourites, Churlaayis and Tilbaas (sweet delicacies). Girdhari rushed in to take shower. Everything was the same in the house except for one new family member – a scooter. The two wheeler had an excruciating long labour ! The scooter was booked by Dad ten years back and it was delivered, now ! India was undergoing the motions of Tapasya, Tyaag and Sadhna (Penance, Sacrifice, Dedication). Dear reader, you will be shocked to know that in India of 70’s and 80’s, telephones were installed years after the booking, cooking gas connection in a house was a five year long struggle. India was relishing the heady days of socialism and licence permit raj (rule) !  The Permit Raj of that period meant, for example, the motor cycle’s production was capped. As a result, demand for that motor cycle continued to reach the Mars, year after year. Girdhari looked at the reserved train ticket in his hand. He was going to Bombay to find employment. 

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Girdhari was lying down on his berth while looking out of the train’s window. The train was crossing Naini railway station. Girdhari was lost deep in his thoughts. In late 80’s most of the government jobs had dried up because of prevailing bad financial health of the nation. Talk about railways jobs, bank jobs, insurance jobs, teaching jobs, administrative jobs ; all the governments had squeezed the job opportunities. And jobs scene in private sector was no better. Nobody had heard of student loans and professional courses in private institutions were outrageously expensive. Girdhari’s friend, Sujeet used to say cynically, we are born in wrong age, yaar (buddy). And then again, Sujeet explained like a wannabe economist. Said he, the government is spending more than it is earning, causing huge fiscal deficit. Plus, India is importing more than it is exporting, ending in mountain of current account deficit. 

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In Bombay, Girdhari started applying to companies through classified columns in newspapers. There was no response yet. No phone calls or letters for any job interview. Months had passed and there was no light visible in the tunnel. Girdhari was standing outside Madhusudan Mills huge metal gate in Worli area. The two big chimneys of the mill were billowing white smoke. He looked at the main entrance gate of the mill. Three Marathi words were written on a big board – Bhurti Chaalu Nakko (No Fresh Recruitment). Girdhari next went to Paragon Mills. This time instead of chimneys, he first looked at the main entrance gate. Nothing was written on it, all clear, sighed Girdhari. When he tried to walk in, the security supervisor pointed to a banner on top of the security cabin. Girdhari’s heart almost sank of desperation. On the banner it was written – Jaaga Naahi (No Vacancy) ! 

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Girdhari was reading the newspapers. Unusually that day, he went to financial section of the newspapers and the realisation hit him, in the face. Under then prime minister, P V Narasimha Rao’s bold leadership, then finance minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh was ushering in economic liberalisation by turning the Indian economy more market savvy and incorporating legitimate foreign funding and private investment. Nobody was admitting but Girdhari knew the screws were being tightened on the licence permit raj. Hence several tonnes of India’s gold was mortgaged to Bank of England, import tariffs and taxes were brought down and Indian markets were deregulated in one swipe !

It was not like all this while Girdhari had no job offer. A Kathmandu (Nepal) based institute had offered him a translator’s job for 12 months. He was seriously contemplating of going to Nepal unless some door opened for him in Bombay, magically. It had not, as yet. Girdhari was amused by the casual but trippy job offers that Bombay offered him. They sucked, big time. A guide’s job offered to him in Colaba (the travel company’s owner calling Girdhari, English talking), a liaison officer’s job in a shady company in Bandra (due to his communication skills) and finally a bouncer’s job in a dance bar in Dahisar (because of his height and build) !

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Girdhari was going to Bombay V T (Victoria Terminus) station (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus) to book a train ticket for Raxaul in order to reach Kathmandu. He got down at Goregaon station to meet his friend, Heera. Heera was a singer in Goregaon’s Rhythm Orchestra Bar. It was 4 pm and hardly five people were seated in the bar for drinks. Girdhari sat comfortably in the cool bar. Heera was singing on the stage accompanied by musicians. He waved and smiled at Girdhari. Girdhari ordered a Thums Up cola drink for himself, scribbled something on the tissue paper and handed it over to the waiter with a ten rupee note. The waiter dutifully handed over the tissue paper and money to Heera. Heera was singing a famous Hindi ballad, Ye Dard Bhara Afsana, Sun Le Anjaan Zamana, Zamana (This pathos laden tale should be heard carefully by this cruel world) as per the request on the tissue paper. Two patrons were seated on one table, two on another and the fifth one was asleep on the third table. Girdhari while sipping his cola, took out his pen, wallet and called the waiter. Heera was singing another famous Hindi ballad, Koyi Lauta De Mere Beete Huye Din (Somebody should return me back those glorious days). The asleep patron was awake now, enjoying his drink, smoke and song. This time Heera announced that he was singing this song on that gentleman’s (pointing towards Girdhari) request. Heera began singing another Hindi gem, Jeena Yahaan, Marna Yahaan, Iske Siwa Jaana Kahaan (Where else can one go, I gotta live here, I gotta die here). The single patron picked up his glass, cigarette and sat in front of Girdhari. He smiled at Girdhari and said, great taste, eclectic choice and what depth, young man. This is my (visiting) card. Come and meet me tomorrow at 11 in my office. We’re looking for a copywriter for our advertising agency !

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The Most Terrible Poverty Is Loneliness And The Feeling Of Being Unloved !

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The 6.20 pm CSTM Titwala local was packed to its gills. I somehow managed to board the Central Railways Mumbai local train at Masjid Bunder station. Oxygen was in short supply inside the coach and scratching my chin was looking like a Herculean task. I got down at Thane railway station. As soon as I started walking out of the exit towards the bus stand, I heard strains of music coming out of banjo and violin kind of instruments. A small crowd had gathered around the performers, sitting on the pavement. An old man was playing the banjo while singing a love ballad in Hindi, Tere bina zindagi se koi, shikwaa, to nahin, shikwa nahin… (No complaints from life if not for you). An old lady, sitting next to him was singing along while playing a violin kind of instrument. People were offering them money in a metal jug kept in front of them. The lady was wiping the water coming out of the eyes of the male singer with her Saree. And then I noticed, both of them were blind. She was singing, Teri bhi aankhon me aansuon ki nami to nahin… (Your eyes are misty too). I’ve never forgotten that sight, ever. An old couple, blind, singing a ballad about longing and togetherness… And nobody knows this better than this lone warrior who has dared to pick up cudgel against three vagaries of old age; boredom, monotony and loneliness. Dear reader, meet this young energetic man, Natvarlal Govindbhai Patel (aka. Natubhai) who helps senior citizens fall in love once again and again and get married, again !    

The Graph : Natubhai begins his amazing life story. He says, I was born on 3rd March, 1949 on a farm in Nanubhada village in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad district. I studied in village school till standard 7th. At the age of 16, I was married. In 11th class, I became father of a male child. I did my B.Com from M S university, Vadodara. I wished to study for C A (chartered accountancy) course but could not. I started working in the ministry of planning.

The Kutch Earthquake aftereffects : I was working as a Superintendent, in charge of Kutch district. On 26 January, 2001, the 3 storied building where I used to stay, got completely flattened, killing everybody inside. I survived because it was a holiday and on holidays, I used to be in Ahmedabad. That was the point which triggered me to help people who had lost their husbands, wives and in-laws. 

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First Case : A man came to me looking for his Saas (mother-in-law). I suggested him to take help of authorities. He said that his wife was pregnant and his Saas was no more. How would his wife deliver her baby ? Taken aback, I said, look, this is not my job. Go, get your wife admitted in a hospital for delivery. He said that he needed a new Saas and he needed my help. I helped him and that is how it all began.

VMAS (Vina Mulya Amulya Sewa) to Anubandh Foundation : I don’t charge a single penny for this purpose. I offer this service, free of cost. Hence the name, Vina Mulya Amulya Seva (VMAS). Its name was changed to Anubandh Foundation after 2012. Since last 4 years, Rizwan Aadetar Foundation is paying for all my Sammelans

The One Regret : Very few women are coming forward for this purpose. In Bihar Sammelan, only two ladies came. I did a Sammelan in Jaipur (Rajasthan) and not a single woman came there ! 

Most Emotional Moment : I got one 81 years old retired male IAS officer married to a 55 years old lady ! He was a grandfather of 15 children ! And they lived together, happily ! 

Message to Youngsters : We search for Damaads (son-in-laws) and Bahus (daughter-in-laws) for our children. When its our turn as widows and widowers, we expect the same from our children. They should support us in all respects when we get old. 

 Natubhai defines Relationship plateaus :  Love has a huge definition. Love is sacrifice and without any expectation or bargainining. 

Loneliness : It is a slow poison. Man and woman are made for each other.  They are meant to be with each other. Find a new partner in remarriage and get out of loneliness and depression.  

Bin Phere Hum Tere (The Live-In Story) : Look, here a 50 years old widow is getting her husband’s pension after his death. Now if she gets remarried, her ex husband’s pension will stop, automatically. But she needs a companion, desperately. So, after I help her out, she opts to stay with a man in a live-in relationship. She gets a companion to spend her life with and her ex husband’s pension continues as an added bonus !  

Satyamev Jayate : In 2010, Supreme Court gave judgement in favour of Live-In relationships. Hindi Film superstar, Aamir Khan expressed desire to shoot our Live-In Sammelan in Ahmedabad. He invited me to participate in an episode of Satyamev Jayate‘s shooting. Aamir Khan presented me with a certificate, shawl and trophy.

 Support System : My wife, Sheela is a great support system for me. She looks after my mails, couriers and visitors. In fact, my whole family helps me out. 

B. C. (Background Check) : Names, addresses, age, height, weight, marital status, number of children, their children’ marital status, history of diseases, divorce papers, deceased partners’ death certificates and other such details of candidates are sought in different columns on my bureau’s forms. The candidates read the form and then sign it. Next stage is their responsibility. I’m no detective, right ? 

Bull’s Eye

168 senior citizens’ marriages done.

1000 youngsters’ marriages done.

12 senior citizens’ live-in relationship initiated  !

Photo by Vinod Kamaraj on Unsplash

Natubhai’s Favourites Sutra : Favourite Colour : Pink

Favourite Season : Rainy season – Its beautiful, neither hot nor cold. 

Favourite Destinations : Bangalore, Gulmarg

Favourite Dishes : Rotla (Baajre ki Roti), Sabji, DaalChawal 

Favourite Singer : Mukesh

Favourite Song : Baharon Phool Barsao, Mera Mehboob Aaya Hai !

Favourite Actors : Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan 

Favourite Movie : Sholay 

Favourite Idols : Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekanand 

Favourite Quote : 

Kaun kehta hai kuch buzurg ishq nahin karte.. 

Wo ishq karte hain par log shaque nahin karte….

(Who says old people don’t fall in love..

Of course they do but are not found out….)

Favourite Philosophy : Do something that gives you immense joy !

Favourite Natural Surrounding : Mountains

Proud Moment : A lady, mother of five children (3 sons and 2 daughters) met me. All her children were happily married. Not any of the 3 Bahus wanted to keep that lady. I got her married. After one year of her wedding, her Bahus became nice with her.

The Picnic : During a Sammelan event, Thursday, Friday and Saturday are reserved for picnic and Sunday for Sammelan. We carry our own cook for these picnics. During picnics, our candidates discover each others’ nature and other personality traits !

Corona Winner at 71 : During my 71 years of my existence, I never fell sick, not even headache or fever by the grace of God. But Corona confined me to bed. I was in home quarantine for a month and came out smiling.

 Awards for the Lone Warrior :

India Book of Records (2013)

Bravo International Book of World Records (2018)

F F to 2021 : Sammelans planned at Ambaji (Gujarat), Mumbai, New Delhi, Jhansi (U P) , Kolkata

Natvarlal Govindbhai Patel

Contact Details of Natvarlal Govindbhai Patel :

Website : Anubandh Foundation (Vina Mulya Amulya Sewa)

Mobile Number : +91 9825185876

E-Mail : natubhai.vmas@gmail.com

Address : 14 – Nand Gopi Society, 

                 Opposite Vasna Bus Stand,

                 Near Vasuki/Asha Park,

                 Ahmedabad – 380007

                 Gujarat (INDIA)  

Famous rockstar, Billy Joel sang in his iconic song, Piano Man :

Yes they are sharing a drink they call loneliness.. 

But it’s better than drinkin’ alone.. 

In India, approximately 3 per cent old men and 8 per cent old women of total population live alone. But in USA, close to 27 per cent old people live alone. Loneliness in old age is considered more dangerous than smoking, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Is it any wonder then, that Mother Teresa said in her famous quote, the most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved… Dear reader, we need more courageous people like Natvarlal Govindbhai Patel who is trying to bring older people together with his hard work, wit and fortitude.

Photo by Shrey Khurana on Unsplash

Let Yourself Loose In Nature To Find Your Real Self !

Photo by Sachin Satvi

The beautiful lady was panting for breath. Drops of sweat were seen on her forehead and she was looking scared, for life. In another part of the same forest a dashing young man, Karam was running speedily while crying aloud, Reshma.. Reshma.. Kahaan ho tum, Reshma (Reshma, where are you)… Little Girdhari and Bulluji were watching a Hindi movie in Picture Palace. Reshma was sitting hunched, eyes closed with her face covered with her colourful Dupatta (stole). The music was reaching crescendo. Just then five men with spears arrived and surrounded Reshma. All the five dark skinned men had their faces painted, feathers tucked inside their bandanas and dressed only in skirts made of leaves. On the screen, loud background score of humba, humba… humba, humba was going maniacally to crack little Girdhari’s soft skull. Reshma jumped up to escape when she was pinned down by these two forest dwellers. One spear’s tip was touching her shoulder. She cried aloud, Bhagwaan ke liye mujh pe reham karo (By God, have pity on me)…  Zoooooob….. The power went off and the movie screen went blank… Girdhari asked Bulluji, ye log kaun hain aur Reshma aunty ko kahaan le jaa rahe hain (who are these people and where are they taking Reshma aunty to) ? A sheepish Bulluji replied, ye log Adivasi hain aur Reshma ko Karam se milwaane le jaa rahe hain (these are tribals, taking Reshma to meet Karam)… Girdhari started thinking, who were these tribals ? And why were they depicted in movie after movie in the same cliched vein ? Years later the answers were discovered when Maverick Yogi visited a tribal village, Waghadi amidst the forests and hills of Palghar in Maharashtra.   

Photo by Sachin Satvi

Waghadi Factually : Waghadi village in Dahanu block is at the western foothills of Sahyadri in Maharashtra’s Palghar district. This village of 1800 people has a mixed population of MALHAR-KOLI tribe and WARLI tribe. Waghadi’s literacy rate is 60% with Surya Nagar High School in its centre. Dahanu Beach is 26 kilo metres and Mumbai is 113 kilo metres away from Waghadi. 

Sachin Bachhu Satvi with Maverick Yogi Photo by Sanchita Satvi

AYUSH = Tribal Upliftment : Sachin Bachhu Satvi, Founder President, AYUSH puts things into real perspective. Sachin explains that AYUSH (Adivasi Yuva Shakti) was founded to harness the youth energy, in order to create more social awareness activities within tribal community. We are incorporating themes as varied as global warming, pollution, hygiene, technolgy advancement, woman rights in our Warli paintings. To obtain Warli Painting Geographical Indication registration (GI Tag) for IPR (Intellectual Property Rights), we found the whole process quite cumbersome. After a hard and learning struggle, we finally got GI tag in 2014. AYUSH is trying to make alternative livelihood sustainable through our forest produce, medicinal plants and agriculture produce. And in the process, we can arrest our villagers’ migration to cities, in search of livelihood, fingers crossed ! 

Photo by Sachin Satvi

USP of Palghar Dahanu Tribals : Their festivals are not celebrated according to the dates on the calendar ! They have lots of freedom and flexibility here. Depending on the change in season, completion of farming activities, crisis in a family or problems of leave in office jobs can postpone or prepone the agreed festival celebration date. Another important feature is the presence of bonafide internal mechanism to solve and resolve disputes. In cities, arguments and disputes end up at authorities and lawyers’ desks. In this tribal community, justice delivery system comprising of village elders is swift, transparent and agreeable to both the parties.  

Photo by Sachin Satvi

Kansari (God of Foods) : Worship for this community means giving respect to natural elements which impact their day to day lives. Any wonders, the process of cooking food is prayed and worshipped as Kansari (God of Foods) !

Dhartari (Mother Earth) : To offer gratitude to mother earth which gives them grains, fruits and roots, they worship Dhartari (mother earth).

Gaaontari (Mother Village) : The place (village) where people live peacefully is worshipped as Gaaontari (mother village).

Berya – Muthi Photo by Mukul Ranjan

BeryaMuthi : Berya is done here during Deewali period; same as Laxmi pujan in Hindu homes. And Muthi is done during gavar chalavane as symbolic painting on wall, kitchen  and floor.  

Bhagat (Traditional Healer) : In earlier times, this tribal community used to wander, in search of forest produce, hunting and herbs. So to take care of snakebites, accidents and bone fractures, experienced people trained themselves as Bhagats by trial and error method. A Bhagat (traditional healer) treats sick people, guides and mentors new talents for this job and also conducts community pooja  (worship rituals), for free !  

Toran (Village Entry Gate) : In case of a disease engulfing a village, the Bhagat makes Toran (a symbol through Warli painting) at that village’s entry point. In one word, Toran is that village’s current health status ! 

Photo by Pandurang Raut

Baaras (Match-Making get together) : Each young woman and man is allowed to choose her/his life partner in this community ! On Mahalaxmi mountain, Baaras (match-making get together) event is celebrated by single men and women. They dance together and find their partners, socially.   

Photo by Pandurang Raut

Taarpa (Famous Tribal Dance Form) : Around Deewali time, after the agricultural activities come to a standstill, Taarpa (famous tribal dance form) dance takes place. One or two communities or villages participate in this dance.  

Taarpa Dance © AYUSH (Adivasi Yuva Shakti)

Dear reader, this tribal community eagerly promotes rehabilitation of divorced couples, widows (Dhavlari) and widowers.

Dhavlari (Tribal Widow) : A tribal widow, known locally as Dhavlari, completes the wedding event from start to finish !

Savaasin (Tribal Old Woman) : The Lagna Chauk seen in Warli paintings is made by Savaasin (tribal old woman) at marriage venue. 

Lagn (Marriage) : Lagn (wedding) event continues for five days. And each day of this event is named aptly. Have a look below.

Photo by Sachin Satvi

Paapdya (Day 1) : Rice is eaten thrice a day (breakfast, lunch and dinner) in this community. Rice Paapad is made from rice. Paapdya is the name of the first day of Lagn (wedding) event. 

Umbarmedh (Day 2) : On second day of Lagn, twig of Umbar tree is worshipped. So this day is called Umbarmedh

Photo by Sachin Satvi

Mandav (Day 3) : Third day of Lagn, Mandav is readied for the event. So this day is called Mandav

Photo by Sachin Satvi

Halad (Day 4) : Fourth day of Lagn, Halad ceremony is performed. This day is called Halad

Photo by Sachin Satvi

Lagn (Day 5) : Fifth day of Lagn is the last and final day of Lagn !

Panch (Five Wedding Supervisors) : This tribal community’s five senior experienced men, act as Panch, on Lagn day. They explain married life’s responsibilities to the bridegroom and the bride. 

Dej (Reverse Dowry System) : Dowry is not part of the Lagn event in this community. But Ladkewaale (bridegroom’s family) present rice and vegetables to Ladkiwaale (bride’s family) ! This ceremony, performed 2-3 days after Lagn, is called Dej.  

Rice and Fish Curry is their staple food. But during feasts, Murga (chicken), Daal (lentils), Bhaaji (various vegetable curries), rice based sweets, Taadi (toddy) and Mohu (Mahua flower drink) is served to the guests.  

Soyin (Tribal Midwife) : During childbirth, Soyin (tribal midwife) plays a very important role. In every village, or in 2-3 villages, there is a midwife. A trained and experienced professional, Soyin begins her job, by taking complete care, of a pregnant woman. She does the maalish (massage) of the pregnant woman, takes her full care, guides her pregnancy period’s food, nourishment requirements, helps deliver the baby and most importantly, takes full care of the newborn, phew ! Nearby hospitals consult Soyin and invite her to train their own professionals ! 

Soyin (Santi Pangal Varatha) Photo by Mukul Ranjan

Satichi Pooja (Chhatthi in Hindi) : On third or fourth day of the childbirth, the baby’s arrival is celebrated, to welcome the newborn, in tribal community. No surprises here, dear reader, Soyin conducts Satichi Pooja. A picture is made to depict this puja in Warli Painting. 

Photo by Pandurang Raut

Aatmnirbhar Kisaan (Self sufficient Farmers) : 10 years back, except clothes and salt, the farmers in tribal community used to grow everything in their farms. Rice, Udid Dal, Moong Daal, Toor Daal, Watana, Kaad Dhaanya, Mango, Phanas (Jackfruit), Kaaju, Cheeku, Sapota, Honey, Custard Apple, Khajari (Date) was grown in farms and backyards. People in these areas also consume Bamboo flowers and Bamboo roots as pickle, throughout the year. Dink (juice of a tree) is used as adhesive while Ambadi (Tamarind leaves) paste is used in cooking fish curry. 

Photo by Sachin Satvi

Trees are Family : Famous Warli Painting artist, Sanjay Parhad says about his community’s bonding with trees and forests. Sanjay says, we don’t touch any tree after sunset. Like us humans, trees too rest in the nights ! Everybody in our community, keeps his or her place clean, so as not to invite the wrath of VanDevi (forest deity). If anybody cuts a tree for household use then, in lieu, he has to plant three saplings !

Toor Dance © AYUSH (Adivasi Yuva Shakti)
AYUSH (Adivasi Yuva Shakti)

Contact Details of AYUSH (Adivasi Yuva Shakti) :

Website : http://www.adiyuva.in

E-Mail : ayush@adiyuva.in

Twitter Link : @adiyuva

Contact Number : +91 9246361249

Facebook Link : https://www.facebook.com/adiyuva

LinkedIn Link : linkedin.com/in/adiyuva

Tribal community does not believe in ‘religion’, the way the rest of the world does. For them, nature is religion and natural elements, their deities. Let yourself loose in nature to find your real self. Dear reader, that is the real one to one connect, that people should have with nature, and find bliss !

Photo by Mukul Ranjan

Hustle Until You No Longer Need To Introduce Yourself !

Photo by Shubhangee Vyas on Unsplash

The sun was scorching the earth. The old man was almost breathless on that June afternoon on a street in Patna. He was frequently wiping his forehead with his gamcha (towel). Bhaiya and Girdhari were sitting on a pedal rickshaw. The wheel of the rickshaw tripped on a broken brick and the old rickshaw puller hunched on his rickshaw’s handle. Bhaiya jumped down from the rickshaw and checked up the old man. He was fine, a little short of breath, maybe. Girdhari said, Bhaiyahumko paani peena hai (I want to drink water)… Bhaiya smiled and said, tumko aisi cheez pilaayenge ki bhookh-pyaas sab mit jaayegi (I will get you something which will take care of both, hunger and thirst)… Both of them walked to a Sattu Thelawala (hawker). The refreshing and cool Sattu (roasted Bengal Gram powder) drink was quickly whipped up by the seller. Bhaiya, Girdhari and the rickshaw puller had their fill and they resumed their journey. Years later, the secret of Sattu as the energy drink and more was revealed to Maverick Yogi by a fresh young voice. Presenting to you, dear reader, start up entrepreneur and an eternal optimist – Sachin Kumar !  

ShikshaDeeksha (Education) : Sachin begins sharing his journey of merit. I belong to Madhubani in Bihar. My father is a trader, looking after retail outlet, distribution, everything. I studied in Sainik School, Tilaiya (Jharkhand). I did English honours from School of Correspondence, Delhi University. Next I did my MBA from Indian Institute of Planning & Management, New Delhi. In the final semester, I got a job in Mumbai with Planman Consulting. That time TIE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) was a good international forum. I was its active student member. Every Saturday-Sunday, I used to participate in its events. I felt my journey had to be different. That was it, for me, I guess ! I thought, I should start something of my own and do it at my native place.  

Sachin with wife, Richa Kumari

Arranged Marriage : I had quit my job. If a guy is doing a good job, he has high value in marriage market. The opposite is true about the guy who is not in a job. First rishta (marriage proposal) came for me. I met Richa and told her upfront, madam – I will live and do business in Madhubani. I won’t be taking up any job, even if it comes down to opening a tea-stall ! She smiled and said, okay done. We are happily married.

Sattu # Super Food : We take lots of protein products, protein supplements and artificial super foods. But Sattu is one natural protein dish or drink which actually is a super food. 

Dream comes true : In Kolkata, an entrepreneurship based event was organised in St Xavier’s College. Shri Hari Balasubramanian sir from IAN (Indian Angel Network) was there. Our stall was at the fag end of the huge hall. Hari sir started studying the start-ups from the first stall. By the time he along with his team reached our stall, everybody was tired. I served my Sattuz drink to him and said, this is my product. He drank it and said he is committed to invest in my start-up. It all happened at lightening speed. In the next 5 minutes, I received the confirmation e-mail from his company !

Sachin with mentor and angel investor, Hari Subramanian

Sachin declassifies Market Secrets :

Start up : Start up is an innovative way of doing business to make an impact.   

Entrepreneur : Entrepreneur is a risk taking person who wants to create a change by doing an innovation. 

Angel Investor : Angel and investor combined is a person who really takes that entrepreneur to the next level and helps him to create that impact.  

Incubator : Incubator helps a startup to innovate, create and market its products or services.

Seed Money : Seed money is the first investment which helps you to make your ideas or innovation or prototype to go to market. 

Mumbai : Dream city. Indicator of Indian economy. Sensex is here, Trade buzz is here. 

Sattuz : It is our first initiative through which we have started creating an impact. Our dream is to make more such brands from our rural areas. 

Innovation and How : We have launched 3 in 1 ready mix product. Recently, we organised a contest for our customers where they had to prepare different dishes barring our own three. I was astounded by their tremendous enthusiasm and their innovative, hatke (unusual) cooking. Pakodas, Laddus, Cookies and some more dishes were the outcome of this contest. Simply, amazing experience ! 

Vocal for Local : In USA, Coca-Cola is existing since more than one hundred years, serving carbonated soft drink to the whole world. Our country, Bharat (India) has so many natural, nutritious and healthy products. But we failed to do what Coco Cola did globally. If I succeed in making more and more people drink my glass of Sattuz, it will be some achievement. My dream is to make rural foods and beverages go global and create entrepreneurship at grassroots level.  

Gaon Ka Khana # Will you sample it : Teesi (Flax seeds) is a nutritious food item. Now we are getting back to villages or back to Vedic culture. Corona pandemic established this fact firmly that a Namaste (greeting with folded hands) is far more effective than a handshake. And Kadha (Ayurvedic immunity booster drink) is best drink of 2020. For this decade and more decades to come, we would need to get back to gaon (villages) and bring the goodness of gaon ka khana (food cooked and served in villages) to all over the world. 

Evolved Governance : We got certified by Bihar Start-Up policy. Now we are certified start-up, officially. Bihar government recognised our efforts and hard work. The government is pushing start-ups. Bihar government has also provided us start-up funds. 

Sachin’s Favourites Sutra

Favourite Colours : Rainbow – It has all the colours and you only have one life !

Favourite Season : Every season is a favourite – You eat mangoes in summer while you miss mangoes in winter !

Favourite Hobbies : Reading books !

Favourite Funda : Live for the moment, work for the quarters and build for generations ! 

Favourite Songs : Jagjit Singh’s ghazals / Lata Mangeshkar songs / S P Balasubramaniam songs 

Favourite Movie : Lagaan  

Favourite Dishes : Litti Chokha, Khichdi, Kadhi Chawal, Rajmah Chawal 

Favourite Mantra : Keep moving forward ! 

Favourite Entrepreneurs : Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Tata group 

Favorite Books : Biographies,  Autobiographies, Self-Help books, Motivational books, Management books / The Alchemist 

Favourite Destinations : Interlaken (Switzerland) / Madhubani (India)

Favourite Tips for Budding Entrepreneurs – Be innovative, Be different and work as a team ! 

Motivation as Compliment – The instant feeling of satisfaction that I see on a customer’s face after he/she has tried my product is my biggest motivation ! That look on that face is my biggest compliment. 

Talks Delivered : Amity University, Bihar Agriculture University, Sabour, IIT Kharagpur

Awards Galore :

Startup Nayak Award by Learning While Travelling

Janhit Jagran Startup Award by Dainik Jagran

Start-Up Winner Award by St. Xavier’s College Kolkata, 

Bihar Start-Up Competition Award by Bihar Industries Association

Sachin Kumar

Contact Details of Sachin Kumar :

Website: www.sattuz.in

Email : team@sattuz.in

Twitter : @Sattuz1

Contact number : 8877005678

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/sattuzofficial

LinkedIn : https://www.linkedin.com/company/sattuz-desisuperfood

Instagram : @sattuzofficial

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC92-xEEzN-BZJvrV1nzemhw

Every great structure is laid on a solid foundation. As an anonymous quote says, hustle until you no longer need to introduce yourself. Is it any wonder then that Sachin has brought up his venture on 3 w’s ethics: Home work, Team work and Hard work ! Proper time and thought is required to pick up a team. In fact, building up a team takes more time than a product’s roll out. This team needs encouragement, nourishment and complete backing, 24×7 ! He says with modesty, I’m a nothing without my great team. And teams win matches, not individuals. When you hear the firmness in that soft voice, dear reader, no dream appears distant or insurmountable !    

Sachin with sons, Shriansh and Shrestha

I, In Forage Of, We !

Photo by R Andagere

Vikramshila express was standing at Jamalpur station. Six year old boy, Girdhari was looking out. A man with Iktara (one stringed musical instrument) stood in front of Girdhari and started singing, Jodi tor daak shune keu naa aashe, Tobe ekla chalo re, Ekla chalo re, Tobe ekla chalo re… Girdhari felt immersed in the beautiful Bangla song. Bhaiya told Girdhari, this famous song has been written by our Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore. Jodi tor daak shune keu naa aashe, Tobe ekla chalo re means if they answer not to your call, walk alone. Girdhari wondered, who were these people who walked alone and most important, why did they walk alone ? These and some other questions were answered in detail to Maverick Yogi by another maverick who took almost 730 days to cover approximately 43,000 kms from Melbourne (Australia) to Bangalore (India) on his motorcycle ! Pleased to introduce, dear reader, the audacious, the unpredictable and the daredevil himself who is here to share his impossible story of voyage – Raj Andagere !

Photo by R Andagere

Launch-Pad : Raj speaks softly as he goes down memory lane. I grew up in a village and went to a Kannada medium school. I was very quiet, observant and a very obedient kid.  Our school principal, Reshma Madam was very, very open minded and forward thinking. She is a very influential person in my life. 

Videsh Calling : I joined a Polytechnic institute after tenth class. Here, I discovered design and architecture. Then I did a diploma in design. I saw an ad for, study in Australia. And I appeared for the test. I got selected in my second attempt. I studied architecture from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia.  

Photo by R Andagere

Architecture really : There are two very clear kinds of architecture being practised today. One is, here I am, I am who I am. The other one is, I am here but you can’t tell me where I am because I am a nobody. I am more interested in the second part of it.    

Photo by R Andagere

Why Me : It all began with the idea of seeing the Australian desert. The oldest civilisation lived in Australia. Sometimes you have to think something really big even if it might appear as bizarre. It could be way out of your thought, pocket, physical capacity. But that’s what brings you alive. I thought, may be I can ride back to India !

SNAFU Tale : I bought a brand new Honda motor cycle for the road trip. It was unregistered without any insurance as I had hardly any money left. In the morning, I opened my back door with my coffee… And whoosh… The bike was gone… stolen ! My ten thousand dollars disappeared with the bike into thin air !    

Biker’s Take : After a couple of months, I put together three and a half thousand dollars and bought a second hand similar model bike from a farm. This bike was in a really, really bad condition. The biking experience is not so much about the bike. Its about you and your journey. You should continue your journey, no matter what. 

Video © – R Andagere

The Phoenix Guy : I had lots of experiences. I had accidents. I was homeless. I was found on road, half unconscious. I walked into people’s houses looking for work. We have this notion that outside world is scarier, dangerous. It is not. 

Photo by R Andagere

Tip for Bikers : Don’t buy the most expensive bike; buy something small, something economical which can be fixed anywhere. Go, get a simple bike, quieter bike, lighter bike which is cheap to run !

Photo by R Andagere

Road Trip Partners : I told myself its gonna be my journey and its gonna be my experience. I could cook, I could sleep and I could change clothes. I had some repair kits, maps, electronic things, a camera, a GoPro, tent, some ration and a small pressure cooker as company.  

Biker versus Architect : It really gave me an insight into different parts of the world. I saw and felt how people lived in different climatic conditions, places, cultures, religions. 

Photo by R Andagere

The Proposal : Raj smiles when he shares this incident. I was travelling in Malaysia. I stopped for meal at a small roadside restaurant. The attractive lady, owner of the restaurant in her twenties, sat next to me while I was eating. She asked me in her broken English, where you from ? I said, Australia. Our chat continued for a while. You married ? No. You have children ? No. Show me passport. I complied. She looked pleased, oh Australian, yeah. She looked deep into my eyes, you look Malaysian but you are Australian ! I asked her, how much for the meal. She said, no money, no money, you marry me first ! I left money on the table, ran towards my bike and and moved away.

Video © – R Andagere

Raj on different Cultures :  

Australia – Australia is a funny country. It is very young. At the same time time, it has world’s oldest civilisation. There you are travelling and meeting people. People don’t ask, where you from and what you are. 

Indonesia – Indonesian people are innocent, modest, helping, always smiling  and very open minded. Indonesians value their history. 

Photo by R Andagere

Singapore – Entry into Singapore was a mammoth hassle. You need to have all the proper documents before you step on its soil. 

Photo by R Andagere

Malaysia – Malaysia is destroying its history. They are trying to erase their history. They are making all efforts to project, they are different. In Malaysia, palm trees are replacing wilderness. I saw big bulldozers uprooting the trees in forests. It was a sad sight. 

Thailand – Beautiful country, beautiful people. 

Vietnam – Lovely people, rich history, rich culture. 

Cambodia – Its an interesting country. Enjoyed my time there. 

Laos – Its a poor version of China. Lovely people, unbelievable scenery. 

Myanmar – Its like India was 40 years ago. Amazingly generous people. Everywhere it has two roads, one for the cars and the second one for bullock carts !

Photo by R Andagere

Bangladesh – It is wow, funny, hilarious and a very, very promising and young country.  

Moment of Pride – From Bangladesh when I crossed the border post into India, I saw the Tiranga (Indian flag) and I started crying. The Indian security personnel were so proud of me. They took me to their general. They treated me like a rockstar.  

Best Compliment : On my road trip, I did all kinds of jobs because I didn’t have much money. I worked as a truck driver, painter, carpenter and worked at construction sites. I travelled to South Korea to paint large murals. My close friends tell me, mate, you are the biggest bull———- artist !

Photo by R Andagere

Rise, Fall and Rise : Raj recalls, I was travelling in a small island, in a remote part of Indonesia, underdeveloped, no hospitals. Local residents were descendants of the Portuguese. I had a real nasty fall on the road. I broke my rib cage and had head injuries. A Shaman was called from another island because he could speak some English. Next morning when I woke up, I was surrounded by men, women and children. They put one baby in my lap. The photo session began. Then another baby and so it went on. I was shocked with all the attention. Then the English speaking Shaman revealed to me, you look Jesus, you look Jesus !    

Photo by R Andagere

Raj’s Favourites Sutra :

Favourite Colour : Green – its related to nature

Favourite Season : Spring 

Favourite Hobbies : Learning new hobbies, Cycling, Playing Badminton, Cooking, Making models, Bicycle, Motorbike – I like anything on wheels !

Favourite Music : Rock, Indian Fusion Music

Favourite Dish : Indonesian Food – Especially food cooked on the side of the street

Favourite Movies : Adventure, Fantasy movies, – Darjeeling Express, Hotel Budapest 

Favourite Funda : I try to do something that I am afraid of ! 

Favourite Buildings : I admire buildings or monuments not made by architects !  

Favourite Authors : Robin Boyle, John Grisham 

Favourite Destinations : Parts of Indonesia, Parts of Australia, Parts of Bangladesh – I am still exploring !

Favourite Quote : If you make a plan, plan has it’s own plan ! 

Photo by R Andagere

Favourite Natural Surrounding : Its hard to say because I love nature – Mountains, Jungles

Favourite Architects : Mario Botta, Carlo Scarpa 

NRI working in Swades : When I came back to India, I had to actually unlearn what I learnt abroad. It was really tough. I lived with my brother, Ajith (acclaimed architect) for sometime. This phase of transition helped me a lot. Currently, I’m working on a couple of projects in Auroville (Pondichery). I am in a very happy state now. 

Raj Andagere

Contact Details of Raj Andagere :

E-Mail : Arkituct@gmail.com

Raj, very succintly adds more to his road trip insight. He says, I never knew I could overcome challenges. I started to learn more about myself. The real search was for, who am I ? What am I made of ? And this realisation hit me hard. We need to get beyond our obsession with ourselves. People are always concentrating on what I want, what I should look for. You never say I, you should always say we. Dear reader, eminent lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri wrote this famous sher (Urdu couplet), Main Akela Hi Chala Tha Jaanib-E-Manzil Magar, Log Saath Aate Gaye Aur Kaarvan Banta Gaya. It means, I set off alone towards my goal, but, people came along and it began to turn into a caravan !

Photo by R Andagere

Yoga Guru # Yogini

Photo by Sacha Styles on Unsplash

Cool breeze was blowing at the riverbank. River Ganga looked so still and beautiful. The big name plate read, Bihar School of Yoga, Munger. Kid Girdhari and his adult uncle, Ramlochan walked inside the sprawling complex. The hall for meditation was quite big. Lots of people were moving around in saffron robes. The whole place was still and serene. Girdhari asked Ramlochan, Chacha, ye log kya karte hain (uncle, what do they do) ? Ramlochan replied, yogi hain, yog karte hain (these are yogis doing yoga) ? Chacha, kya aap yogi hain (uncle, are you a yogi), Girdhari asked. Ramlochan said, nahin (No) ! Who is a true Yogi and some other insight were disclosed to Girdhari several years later. Presenting to you, dear reader, globally renowned Yoga Guru, Life Change Coach and successful entrepreneur, Andrea Drottholm !

Andrea explains the meaning of her lovely name. Andrea is derived from Greek language. It means a ‘strong man’. I’m the feminine counterpart so ‘strong woman’ for me. Strong and brave. 

Photo by Peter Drottholm

Andrea had a liberal childhood. As she says, I was born in Sweden to an immigrant family. Both my parents are Hungarians. I lived for seven years in the suburbs of Gothenburg. After that we moved to a deep forest of Sweden. I was a very adventurous kid. I could not stay indoors for long. My parents were workers in a factory. My mother worked in many many different trades. The last job that she did was that of a public bus driver. I lived in Sweden till I was 19.   

Family as first school : My mother was very intuitive. I got a lot of freedom from my parents. They allowed me to be who I was. I was allowed to spread my wings. I am very, very grateful for that. 

Photo by filipaveigayoga

Yoga for everybody : Yoga is good when it comes to maintaining our health. Yoga helps you to become more independent, more self assured, free thinker. It helps a lot if one is willing to explore other areas of Yoga besides asanas.  

Life Coach : A life coach, together with the client, either in person or online, works on tools that support finding new functional ways to achieving goals and creating constructive change. Life change is a process of clarification, inspiring one to create more meaning in life and follow one’s passion.

Who am I : – First and foremost, I’m a Yoga teacher. But I like to be diverse. I’m a life change coach. I’m a designer. I’m an entrepreneur as I have a Yoga retreat centre. 

Ashtanga Yoga : Ashtanga Yoga is very dynamic. It naturally attracts lots of ambitious people. Also people who are physically driven. Like I was always very active with sports and dance. So I wanted to find something that allowed me to remain active along with stillness.  

Photo by Paumarchant_photo

In quest of :  I am curious by birth. I’ve always been drawn to people, learning about people. I travel the world and meet lots of people. I learn about diversities, languages, cultures, environment.    

Kundalini awakened :  I have met people who have their Kundalini awakened in a sense of becoming more in tune with their psyche. By Kundalini awakened, I mean pure and enlightened ones. Once enlightened, always enlightened !

True Yogi : A true Yogi is someone who is always searching, always on the path, on never ending learning and growing, feeling humble at that. A true Yogi is compassionate. 

Photo by Jeanne Welsh (junglejeanne_)

Andrea on various Cultures : Sweden – Sweden is a socialist country. Its very conforming. They obey very easily. They live in a very organised way. They are very practical, clean, proper and easy going people. No drama. They are very nature oriented, conscious about the nature. 

Hungary – I have spent my summers there. The Hungarians are very proud people, very cultured. They love their art, their books, theatre, everything related to culture. They like to complain, though. Hungary’s architecture is superb. These people are very strong in music. The Gypsy culture is alive.   

Spain – Spain is my favourite country. I love Spanish. Its very much alive, very vibrant. They love their parties, coming together like the Indians. They love to dance, drink their wine and stay up late nights. They love the drama.     

Indonesia – The Indonesians are very sweet, always smiling, kind and warm people. They are very welcoming towards the foreigners. They usually don’t speak up. If they are upset about something they won’t tell you. They are very artistic people, very detailed in their art. 

Photo by damien de Bastier (yogadamien)

India – India is very vibrant. There is so much flowing in India with so many colours, smells, sights and sounds. Many times I would ponder on something in my head. All of a sudden someone would say something like an answer to what I was thinking about. That happened to me over and over again in India. I always leave India with full of love. 

Andrea’s Favourites Sutra :

Favourite Colours : All the natural colours. Anything that comes from natural plants, nature itself. 

Favourite Season : Here, in Bali, there are only two seasons, rainy and hot season. When I lived in Sweden, spring was my favourite season.

Favourite Hobbies : Photography – I like to go out and take photos / Explorer – I like to explore places where I have never been before /Jewellery Design /  Meditation 

Photo by Luisquilho

Favourite Singers : I’m a big fan of Aretha Franklin and Gregory Porter.

Favourite Movie : Le Grand Bleu (French) / The Big Blue (English) – Its a real story about a sea diver. Its beautiful combination of the story, music, acting and cinematography. 

Favourite Cuisine : Mediterranean food – Its not too heavy / Japanese Food / Indian Food – Palak Paneer, Dosas

Favourite Quote : A ship is safe in harbour, but that is not what ships were made for – John A. Shedd

Favourite Authors : Paulo Coelho – I like the messages in his books. Another favourite is Leo Buscaglia – He is quite famous as Dr. Love ! 

Favourite Destinations : Bali (Indonesia) – I love living here / India

Photo by yogadamien

Favourite Natural Surrounding : Beaches, mountains, forests, rivers, waterfalls !

Favourite Yoga Teachers : Sharath Jois, Matthew Sweeney, Nick Evans

Andrea with Sharath Jois

Favourite Mantra : Aaditya Hridaya Strotam – I’m a Sun worshipper ! 

Ubuntu Bali in future : The plan to open another Yoga retreat is in motion. This one will be more community based and with more sewa (service). The idea is to bring more focus into togetherness. How we are with each other. The plan is to collaborate with charities, foundations etc. 

Ubuntu Bali Yoga Centre (Indonesia)
Rishikesh (India) Photo by Akash Choudhary on Unsplash

Funnily bizarre : We were in Rishikesh (India) and about to fly back to Indonesia. I had to take a Covid Test. I was in the hotel and for ten minutes I was talking to this civilian. And all of a sudden he jumps into this PPE suit that they all have to wear. I asked, what are you doing. He said, oh, I’m doing Covid Test. And then he shoves this thing inside my nose for minutes as if to clean or something !

Andrea Drottholm Photo by Jenya_Kadnikova (on Instagram)

Contact Details of Andrea Drottholm :

Website : www.andreadrottholm.com

www.ubuntubali.com (not online yet.. but soon)

www.samadiwear.com

FaceBook : https://www.facebook.com/andrea.drottholm/

Instagram: @andreacanggu

@samadiwear

@ubuntubali

Andrea Drottholm believes, dear reader, one should practice Yoga for the betterment of one’s whole being. Maverick Yogi remembers an old incident, vividly. Girdhari and his friend, Vikram, both in their twenties were seated in a night service bus while travelling from Kathmandu to Beergunj in Nepal. Vikram took out a cigarette from his packet of Surya cigarettes and started smoking. At Kalimati curve the bus stopped. A monk in saffron robes climbed in. The monk was standing next to Girdhari. Girdhari got up and made the monk sit on his seat. The monk asked Vikram, why are you smoking ? Vikram replied, yunhe (just like that). The monk laughed aloud. Girdhari asked the monk, are you a Yogi, Swamiji ? Swamiji laughed and said, Bhai (brother), all human beings are born as Yogis when they are infants ! As adults when they start eating and drinking more than what their body needs, they become Bhogis (gluttons) ! And if they continue being Bhogis for years and decades they finally end up as Rogis (ailing) ! Vikram chucked his half smoked cigarette out of the window while Girdhari and Swamiji resumed their midnight conversation on healthy mind and healthy body. 

Bali (Indonesia) Photo by Cassie Gallegos on Unsplash

The One Who Is Riding A Chariot !

Karndhaar Photo by Mukul Ranjan

My journey as a blogger started last year during Corona pandemic on 9th July, 2020 with my first blog, What’s In A Name ? It got tremendous response, far surpassing my own modest expectation. That post was essentially about how I named my baby boy, Karndhaar. This blog will try to answer the question about why I named him Karndhaar. There have been two types of queries on this name. My son’s doctors, his school’s principal, his friends’ parents, airline executives handling boarding passes, BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) officials, my wife’s friends and some of my dearest friends have asked the meaning of Karndhaar. That’s simple to explain. And then, some other friends have asked, why the name Karndhaar ? Hey, wait a sec, I’m jumping the gun. Lemme begin with first ball, first. A dear friend of mine suggested the name, Aarav for my infant. That’s easy to understand. Since the time a Hindi film actor named his son, Aarav, a certain percentage of newly born male children in India have been named Aarav ! But more fascinating was a name suggested by another dear friend of mine. Hear this, dear reader, Kapur Shakti (Camphor Power) was the name suggested by him for our infant ! Go, figure it out for yourself, guys !       

Photo by Alireza Sahebi on Unsplash

Dear reader, you must have heard the name, Karn. He is probably the most famous character from, Mahabharat, known all around the globe ! He is also known as Vasusen, Raadhey, Suryaputra, Angraaj, Daanveer amongst several others names. I read first about him in Amar Chitra Katha. Later I read several versions of Mahabharat, Shivaji Sawant’s novel, Mrityunjay and Ramdhari Singh Dinkar’s long poem, Rasmirathi. All these books are based on the one and only, Karn. I feel fortunate to be connected to the word, Karn in two ways. One is ancient history and the second is early medieval history. 

Photo by Jyoti Singh on Unsplash

In India’s ancient history, incidents depicted in Mahabharat took place approximately around 5,000 years back. Prince Duryodhan appointed Karn as King of Ang state. So, the name, Angraaj Karn. Ang state of Mahabharat age is currently Bhagalpur-Munger zone in Bihar. The dialect spoken by the people in this area is Angika. Plus, in 1964-65 the creator of Rashmirathi, the famous poet Ramdhari Singh Dinkar was Vice Chancellor of the, then Bhagalpur University. In fact, there is a mohalla (locality) in Champanagar (ancient Champa) near Bhagalpur called Karngarh. When I visited Gurgaon in Haryana for the first time, I desperately wished to go to Karnal. During Kurukshetra war in Mahabharat, it is believed, today’s Karnal is the place which then, was the camp of mighty Karn and his army from Ang. Yours truly, dear reader, studied in C M S High School and T N B College in Bhagalpur, Bihar !    

Vikramshila Setu, Bhagalpur Photo by Vineesh PB on Unsplash

Let’s enter early medieval history of India, now. In the south of Vindhyas, around mid 11th century AD, a famous emperor Someshvara 1 of western Chalukya empire was ruling in today’s Karnataka. Under the brilliant leadership of his son, prince Vikramaditya VI (next Chalukyan emperor), the unbeatable army from Karnataka successfully defeated the kingdoms of Kanyakubj, Kashi, Mithila, Magadh, Ang, Vang, Gaud and Nepal. Several Chalukyan military commanders were stationed permanently to take care of these newly won territories. Three Chalukyan military commanders of emperor Vikramaditya VI had different plans, altogether. In 1069 AD, Samant Sen set up Sen empire in Vang (capital at today’s Bikrampur near Dhaka, Bangladesh). Chandradev established Gahadvala empire in 1089 AD in Kanyakubj (capital at today’s Varanasi). And in July, 1097 AD, Nanyuppa (later called Nanyadev) founded Karnata empire in Mithila (capital at today’s Simroungarh, Nepal). By 1099 AD, king Nanyadev and his prime minister, Shridhardas Thakkur had brought 63 families consisting of their relatives from Kalyani (today’s Basavakalyan in Karnataka’s Bidar district) and Manyakheta (today’s Malkheda in Karnataka’s Gulbarga district) in three tranches to Mithila (present north Bihar and Nepal Tarai). So, my forefather was either from Malkheda or from Basavakalyan, for sure, in Karnataka. This whole community called itself Karnata Kayasth for a long time which later got shortened to Karn Kayasth.  

Photo by Jayesh Patil on Unsplash

I was fascinated with the name, Karn from time immemorial. But I didn’t want to name my baby, Karn for obvious reasons. Due to my Karnata ancestry, oops, Karn to be precise, I wanted the name to begin with Karn. Some names came to my mind, such as Karnam, Karnik, Karana, Karneegar, Karnaat, Karan but these are mostly used as surnames by people and communities in several states of India. So finally, I named him Karndhaar. My Bengali friends lovingly call him, Korno ! That’s okay. My friends from Punjab pronounce it as Karandhaar. Okay again. My bestie, Vishwapriay has shortened it to KD. Perfectly okay. My friends from mass media address him as Karan, okay fine again, pals ! A friend of mine from Karnataka told me Karndhaar means ‘Captain’ in Kannada language. Hey listen, I’m no expert on Kannada language, my Kannadiga friends can add more to this. To the best of my knowledge, Karndhaar means saviour, pilot, commander amongst several other meanings. In fact, after understanding the meaning, the BMC official who headed birth certificate division asked me if he can name his four days old grandson, Karndhaar ? That was a pleasant surprise, sweet. But to his parents, Karndhaar only means pure innocent love. Here is, dear reader, Karndhaar along with Maverick Yogi, wishing you a great and scintillating new year, 2021 !  

P.S : I owe it to you, Nalini Ashwin.

Karndhaar Photo by Pratyush Ranjan